Skip to main content
Dealing With Head Lice in Your Home

You are listening to The Scope Radio:

Dealing With Head Lice in Your Home

Feb 03, 2015

It’s a myth that getting head lice is a result of poor hygiene. Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones is here to tell you that it can happen to anyone – even the families of physicians. He talks about the best ways to treat the family’s scalps and disinfect your house from these disturbing pests.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: There's a misconception out there that lice is a result of bad hygiene and just being dirty. But that's actually not the case. We're talking about head lice and how to fix the family next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: We have Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones, family physician from the University of Utah here talking to us about lice as a family, actually. Dr. Jones, you have an interesting story to tell us, so let's start with your story.

Dr. Jones: I did. So, over the Thanksgiving holiday, my family and I were affected with lice. It started with my son, who got it from school. We had received many notifications from the school that there had been many kids who had had lice. Honestly, we didn't think much about it, until we started seeing some of these small insects in his hair. It's one of those things where, we are a clean family, we bathe him every day, doesn't matter. You still get it from kids and it's hard because you feel a little violated. You've got these tiny bugs, you don't know exactly . . .

Interviewer: Where they came from.

Dr. Jones: Exactly. Where they are, even if you go through everything to get ride of them, you're still not completely sure they're gone. So it's a hard experience, not only for the person who initially gets infected, but they very commonly affect everyone in the family. So it's a big deal.

Interviewer: As a family, how do you overcome this problem? The source of the situation is somebody else's kid, but once it affects your family it's your problem. So how do you deal with it as a family?

Dr. Jones: Yeah. I mean there are a couple of things. You really got to help each other out. There is some medicine known as permethrin. Some of the brand names are Nix or Rid. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wash your hair with it and repeat in one week, which kills any of the lice that's in there.
And then from there, this is the part where you need a lot of help from your family, is wet combing the nits out. So the nits are kind of the small eggs that attach to your hair, and they're pretty sticky. They're kind of hard to get out. So there are some special fine-toothed combs that you can use to go through and try to get rid of those nits. It's recommended that you do that every three days for a couple of weeks to make sure that you get all of them. And, you know, it's time consuming. It's not easy, so you need a lot of help from your family and friends.

Interviewer: And you said before that it is a myth that dirty hygiene and just being dirty in general is not the cause of lice.

Dr. Jones: Exactly, it's very common, especially in schools. It's estimated that the majority of kids are going to have lice some point in their lives. You know, it's one of those things where you can do the best you can and you can still get it. So don't feel bad about that. It doesn't mean you're dirty or have poor hygiene.

Interviewer: How long does it take for the whole family to kind of overcome this issue?

Dr. Jones: It's recommended to do these things for about two weeks. It's also recommended that you wash all bedding and clothing in hot water to try to kill everything.

Interviewer: You wash the pets too?

Dr. Jones: Absolutely. And there are a couple other things you can try. These things have not been studied, but some people say that washing your hair with vinegar helps, mostly because it's an acid and so of course it's going to kill something.

Interviewer: So these are like the home remedies that . . .

Dr. Jones: Exactly.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Jones: But it's also a little caustic to your hair and your scalp, so you can consider that if you want. Also coconut oil, for some reason there's something . . .

Interviewer: And it's healthy, healthy smooth hair too.

Dr. Jones: Exactly. There's something about the coconut oil that the lice doesn't like. So there are many things to try to get rid of it. But the thing is you have to be persistent for a couple weeks.

Interviewer: Do you actually have to close out your self and not go to work, not go to school, because that's two whole weeks of your life just stuck at home?

Dr. Jones: Yeah. Thankfully, not for the full two weeks. If you have live lice in your hair, then that's easy to transmit to others. If you don't and you just have the nits or the eggs, it's okay to be around others. So it's not going to pass on. You can go back to school, you can go back to work. But, again, you still need to go through the combing every few days for a couple of weeks and some of these other things to make sure that this doesn't come back.

Interviewer: How young does lice affect? Because it's obviously a family issue, but is there an age limit, an age maximum, minimum?

Dr. Jones: You know there's not really any age limit but in my family, I have three kids, my youngest is three years old. She got it. My son that got it at school is nine and it passed on to my wife. Thankfully I didn't get it, but it's taken a lot of work to help get rid of it in all the rest of the family.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts about dealing with head lice as a family?

Dr. Jones: It's a hard thing because it takes a lot of work. Again, you feel kind of violated. But if you stick to it, you help each other out, you can get rid of it. And again, don't feel bad. It's not your fault. It's not because you have poor hygiene. It's just one of those things that happens to kids.

Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is the Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.